With our busy schedules, we haven't really had time to meet our neighbors.  We have, however, had constant audio reminders that they're there. There's the drilling and hammering that comes from our neighbors remodeling upstairs.  There's the radio that we can hear clearly from another neighbor.  And yet another neighbor decides to play the chinese harp every once in awhile (which is actually quite pleasant).  But for the last couple days, we've been hearing a grimmer sound from our neighbors next door, that of wailing.  As we observed loads of people coming in and out, with white hats and headscarves on, it became clear that a mourning period was happening. We figured that someone in their extended family had passed away, so following the custom here, as their neighbors, we decided to pay them a visit to offer our condolences.  But when we went over there, it turned out that the funeral was not just for a family member, but for our actual neighbor's wife, who had passed away there only nights ago. 

We did get a chance to chat a little with her husband though. He was pretty distraught but seemed thankful that we cared enough to go over there (better late than never).  He even entrusted us with two of his large plants, which he asked us to water for him since he wouldn't be living in that apartment any longer.  Later that night, he again entrusted us to watch after his sister-in-law as she cleaned up the apartment and prepared it for the next forty days of mourning.  I (Michelle) sat in that apartment and chatted with her and she told me a bit about their customs.  Apparently, they believe that the spirit of the deceased remains in the place where it passed away until it moves on to either heaven or hell.  (That's why the sister-in-law was afraid of staying there on her own).  She told me that the lights in the apartment have to stay on for 7 days (the traditional mourning period), and that as guests come and visit, they will say prayers for the deceased to move her onto heaven.  

It seemed so strange to me that for a little over a month, we never got to visit with our neighbors, and there I was in their beautifully decorated home, helping to prepare for their mourning period.  As I sat there, I kept looking at this huge wedding portrait of portrait on the wall of the wife and wondering what she was like.  Had I ever even seen her during our quick comings and goings from our apartment?  I felt really bad that although all of that was going on just feet away from our door, we had no idea!  Honestly this whole experience challenged me to wake up a bit more and look around me at the people, people who are hurting, breaking, even dying.  

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